May 31, 2013

Social Security and Medicare Trustees Release Reports

The reports contain good news for seniors and contradict critics who claim that the programs are unsustainable

The following statement was released by Jean Friday, of Belle Vernon PA, President of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, regarding the release of the Trustees Report for both Social Security and Medicare:

“Gloom and Doom politicians and pundits from Alan Simpson to Paul Ryan would have seniors believe that Social Security and Medicare are ‘broke’.  Furthermore, a concerted effort has been made to convince working Americans that they should not expect to receive the Social Security and Medicare benefits they have paid for because the programs are ‘unsustainable’.  Once again, today’s Trustees Report paints a very different picture of these vital programs’ future.

“First let’s address our Social Security system.  Social Security once again ran a surplus in 2012 – just like it did during every year of the recent recession. Last year, Social Security had a surplus of $54 Billion.  As a result, the value of the Social Security Trust Fund rose to $2.73 Trillion.  (That’s Trillion, with a ‘T’.)  Do these characteristics resemble what most Americans would consider ‘broke’?  I think not.  Furthermore, the trust fund’s insolvency date is unchanged from the previous report, after years of inching closer to the present.  It still stands at 2033. We have plenty of time to make small tweaks to the system that will ensure its permanent solvency.  No drastic action such as privatization is needed.  We also do not need benefit cuts such as the Chained-CPI cut to our cost-of-living-adjustments. Raising the cap on taxable earnings, as proposed by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, would be quite enough.

“There is more good news on the Medicare front.  Recent news reports have shown a slow-down in health care spending across the board in our country.  This has been accompanied by falling projections of Medicare and Medicaid spending increases.  So it should come as no surprise that the Medicare Hospital Trust Fund’s insolvency date actually moved forward to 2026!  Last year’s report pegged it at 2024.  A decline in spending, coming on the heels of important program changes adopted as part of the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” have combined to rescue a trust fund that was once set to run out as early as 2017 if nothing had been done.

“Of course, there is still much work to do to preserve Medicare for future generations.  However, we do not need to dismantle the system as suggested by Paul Ryan and passed by the House of Representatives.  The Alliance for Retired Americans has already endorsed several additional cost-saving measures including negotiation of prescription drug prices for Medicare Part D.  Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act contained several demonstration projects that are being set up to study structural changes to payment methods that will hopefully save Billions in the long run.  Steps like these should be taken and allowed to work before drastic measures that hurt seniors’ care are considered.

“Let’s hope this year’s release of the Trustees Reports for Social Security and Medicare will be a turning point in our national discussion over these critical programs.  We need a focus on small changes that protect and improve the programs, not ideologically-driven attacks that seek to undermine and dismantle them.  The quality of life for America’s current and future seniors depends on it.  I encourage anyone who wants to learn more to contact the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans. We stand ready to educate and mobilize to preserve and improve our Social Security and Medicare systems.”

The Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans has over 300,000 members and 144 local affiliates across the Commonwealth.  PARA’s mission is to educate seniors and the public about retiree issues, and organize seniors to advocate for their interests in Harrisburg and Washington.  To learn more, visit www.pennretiredamericans.org

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